Recommended Reading

The 32 Best Books I Read in 2018

With millions of titles to choose from, figuring out what to read can be a challenge. With only so many hours in the day there is a limit on how much one can consume. In 2018 I read over 40 books and hundreds of articles. Most of them were worth reading. When do I find the time to read? Well, I cheat.  I have a 30-40 minute work commute each way, and I listen to audio books. I take notes with a hands-free voice recognition feature on Evernote. Books I actually read are typically on Kindle, and I rarely sit still for 5 minutes without reading something. Planes, airports, doctor’s office waiting rooms… never pass up an opportunity to expand your mind.

I try to vary what I read. While I prefer nonfiction, especially books about how to understand the world, each other, or myself a little better, I feel it’s important to also read fiction and classics. There is much to learn from these as well, and changing things up keeps the brain tissue limber.

While I would recommend all of the 32 books on this list, I highly recommend Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational (a wonderfully written book about how your mind doesn’t always function the way you think it does), Lois Zachary’s Starting Strong (a great guide for mentoring), and Lazlo Bock’s Work Rules! (an insightful set of guidelines that could revolutionize your organization). These books can challenge the way you think, which is the highest praise I can give an author.

Happy Reading!

History

With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by E.B. Sledge

Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them by Jennifer Wright

Light Falls: Space, Time, and an Obsession of Einstein by Brian Greene

The Invention of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution, and the Birth of America by Steven Johnson

Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare: The Mavericks Who Plotted Hitler’s Defeat by Giles Milton

Secrets Revealed by Willis Bullard

Fiction

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks

The Book of Lost Things: A Novel by John Connolly

Strategy Strikes Back: How Star Wars Explains Modern Military Conflict by Max Brooks et al

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

How We Think

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely

Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink

What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves by Benjamin K. Bergen

Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schultz

The Art Of Thinking In Systems: Improve Your Logic, Think More Critically, And Use Proven Systems To Solve Your Problems – Strategic Planning For Everyday Life by Steven Schuster

Think In Systems: The Theory and Practice of Strategic Planning, Problem Solving, and Creating Lasting Results – Complexity Made Simple by Zoe McKey

Brain Rules for Aging Well: 10 Principles for Staying Vital, Happy, and Sharp by John Medina

The Existential Pleasures of Engineering by Samuel C. Florman

The Systems Thinker: Essential Thinking Skills For Solving Problems, Managing Chaos, and Creating Lasting Solutions in a Complex World by Albert Rutherford

Systems Thinking Strategy: The New Way to Understand Your Business and Drive Performance by Jimmy Brown PhD

Leadership and Management

Starting Strong: A Mentoring Fable by Lois J. Zachary

The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success by William Thorndike

Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility by Patty McCord

Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead by Laszlo Bock

Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs by John Doerr

The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired: (Performance-based Hiring Series) by Lou Adler

Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box by The Arbinger Institute

Strategic Learning: How to Be Smarter Than Your Competition and Turn Key Insights into Competitive Advantage by Willie Pietersen

Don’t Reply All: 18 Email Tactics That Help You Write Better Emails and Improve Communication with Your Team by Hassan Osman

Behind Boardroom Doors: Lessons from a Corporate Director by Betsy Atkins

 

I can’t turn down a good book sale, especially when they are free on Kindle, so I’ve already collected quite a few books for next year. Here’s a preview.

Currently On the Shelf for 2019

The Mathematical Corporation: Where Machine Intelligence and Human Ingenuity Achieve the Impossible By Josh Sullivan

A Philosopher’s Notes – On Optimal Living, Creating an Authentically Awesome Life and Other Such Goodness by Brian Johnson

Philosophy on Tap: Pint-Sized Puzzles for the Pub Philosopher by Matt Lawrence

Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

The Hidden-Hand Presidency: Eisenhower as Leader by Fred I. Greenstein

The Divine Comedy: Dante Inferno Purgatorio Paradiso by Dante Alighieri

Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World by Joan Druett

The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James

Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue by Ryan Holiday

How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky

The Science of Self-Learning: How to Teach Yourself Anything, Learn More in Less Time, and Direct Your Own Education by Peter Hollins

A History of the Corruptions of Christianity by Joseph Priestley

 

I hope you have a chance to read some or all of the titles above. If you do, I would love to hear from you, whether you enjoyed or hated the book.

Have a wonderful 2019!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recommended Reading

Bob’s 2017 Reading List

This year’s reading list is geared towards helping people develop as leaders. To me, being a good leader requires a variety of skills: self awareness and empathy (understanding yourself and those you lead and follow), clear thinking, strategic thinking (including systems thinking), an understanding of your context (the environment within which you are working), a robust understanding of your work, and some flare. The books below don’t cover all of these characteristics, but they are a good start. “Thinking about Thinking” helps leaders understand why they and others think the way they do. Strategic Thinking helps leaders understand where their problems exist within a larger context, and gives insight into what external things may be influencing your problems.

The section labeled “Leadership” touches on mentorship, motivation and creativity in leadership. If you are looking for a basic primer on straightforward techniques on leadership you can do a lot worse than the basic Army doctrine manual, Field Manual 6-22 Army Leadership.

“Thinking About the World” introduces some different opinions about some emerging areas influencing society. Data, social networks, different views that challenge conventional wisdom… the point is to question the accepted views on a variety of topics, not to change your mind but to exercise your ability to consider different views.

“Just to be Different” section is really about introducing and exercising divergent thinking. How might this make you a better leader? Look, everyone is trying to do the same things as everyone else, only better. The way I figure, everyone is trying so hard to be “normal” that we are missing out on the things that can really make a difference in our organizations. If you look throughout history for those folks who really made a difference you don’t find too many conformists. Yes, you have to figure out which rules you need to follow, but following the herd isn’t going to make you a great leader. Think differently.

The final section is geared towards my own organization and our specific context. You should develop a short reading list for your place as well. One of the best ways to get folks socialized is to send them a book that helps them understand their new firm before they arrive.

I know it’s a long list… but you have as long as it takes. I recommend reading one from each category, taking a break (read some fiction… I’ll recommend some in a later post), and then looping back through. Continue reading

Recommended Reading

Bob’s Published Articles

These are a couple of articles I published in the past few years. When you write for publication it really forces you to solidify your thoughts, hopefully in a coherent way that can be understood by others. To me, writing is the best way to master a topic. For more on this I recommend Thinking on Paper  by V.A. Howard and J.H. Barton

War Room – Trading Queens – 2017-05-04

Small Wars Journal – Clausewitz, Center of Gravity, and the Confusion of a Generation of Planners – 2015-10-20

War on the Rocks Bringing Big Data to War in Megacities – RG Dixon

Engineers and Urban Terrain – Engineer Magazine

Small Wars Journal – Psychology and Basic Combat Training – 2014-10-14